Education: Notes & Sources

Education:  Notes & Sources


Academic Achievement Starting in the 2009-2010 school year, the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) was replaced by the Measurements of Student Progress (MSP) for students in grades 3 through 8, and the High School Profieciency Exam (HSPE) for 10th grade students. Passing the reading and writing was required for graduation in 2012. The classes of 2013 and 2014 must pass reading and writing HSPE assessments, plus one end-of-course (EOC) math exam. Beginning with the class of 2015, students must pass reading and writing HSPE assessments, 2 math end-of-course exams, and 1 biology end-of-course exam. 

Confidence Interval (also known as error bar) is the range of values that includes the true value 95% of the time. If the confidence intervals of two groups do not overlap, the difference between groups is considered statistically significant (meaning that chance or random variation is unlikely to explain the difference).   

Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) is Washington's pre-kindergarten program serving low-income and at-risk 3 and 4 year olds and their families. It is very similar to Head Start (see below). 

Federal Poverty Guidelines are issued by the Department of Health and Human Services and are used to determine financial eligibility for various federal, state, and local assistance programs. The guidelines are based on the Census Department’s federal poverty thresholds. For a family of 4, the federal poverty guideline was $22,050 in 2010; in 2012 it is $23,050.

The Federal Poverty Threshold was adopted in 1964 as an “absolute measure” by which progress in the War on Poverty could be assessed. It is updated annually by the Census Bureau, and is used to calculate official population statistics on the number of Americans in poverty. Its usefulness has diminished over the past half century, as it almost certainly underestimates poverty in the United States. 

Graduation rates: Starting with the class of 2011, Washington state is using a new method to calculate graduation rates. The new method conforms to standards of the U.S Department of Education and tracks individual students' enrollment over time. Following the same cohort of students, the graduation rate is the proportion of students starting 9th grade who graduate 4 years later. In the past, Communities Count reported "on-time" graduation based on a criterion that did not follow individual students over time. Because different methodologies were used in these calculations, on-time graduation rates presented here should not be compared with rates published in previous Communities Count reports.

Head Start is a federally funded program that promotes school readiness for young children (birth through 4 years old) from low-income families by enhancing their cognitive, social, emotional development. Children receive nutritious, hot meals and health screenings; teachers encourage parents to extend their child's learning at home. Early Head Start serves infants, toddlers, and pregnant women; Head Start serves 3 and 4 year old children. 

High School Profiency Exams (HSPEs) are comprehensive exams that measure the basic proficiency of high school students in reading and writing., and serve as the state's exit exam in those subjects. Students are required to pass an End-of-Course (EOC) in algebra 1/integrated math1/ and/or geometry/integrate math 2. And beginning with the class of 2015, they are also required to pass a biology EOC exam. 

King County regions: The geographic boundaries of the four King County sub-regions (North, Seattle, East, and South) are defined by the aggregation of ZIP codes.

Limited English: On the basis of their performance on the Washington English Language Proficiency Test (WELPT), students are offered temporary support services for English Language Learners until they meet criteria established by the state. Students who have not met those criteria are classified as having "limited English proficiency". 

Low income

  • For Head Start eligibility, low income is defined as family income at or below the federal poverty guidelines (see definitions above). 
  • For analyses of the 10th grade students meeting academic standards and of on-time graduation rates, students are considered low income if they are eligible for free and reduced price meals. Families with income up to 185% of the federal poverty guidelines qualify. In the 2010-2011 school year, children in a household of 4 with annual income up to $28,665 were eligible for free meals and those with an annual income up to $40,793 were eligible for reduced-price meals; in the 2011-2012 school year, children in a household of 4 with an annual income up to $29,055 were eligible for free meals and those with an annual income up to $41,348 were eligible for reduced-price meals.

Race/Ethnicity: Federal standards mandate that race and ethnicity (Hispanic origin) are distinct concepts requiring 2 separate questions when collecting data from an individual. "Hispanic origin" is meant to capture the heritage, nationality group, lineage, or country of birth of an individual (or his/her parents) before arriving in the United States. Persons of Hispanic ethnicity can be of any race. Communities Count's terms for racial/ethnic groups are derived from those used by the U.S Census Bureau in 2010.

  • Communities Count terms:  Hispanic, Non-Hispanic, White Non-Hispanic, Black, American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN), Asian, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (NHPI), White, and Multiple Race (Multiple). Persons of Hispanic ethnicity can be of any race and are included in other racial categories. Racial/ethnic groups are sometimes combined when sample sizes are too small for valid statistical comparisons of more discrete groups. 
  • 2010 Census terms: Hispanic or Latino, Not Hispanic or Latino, White alone (Not Hispanic or Latino),  Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, White, Some Other Race, and Two or More Races.


Too few cases to report:  Survey data with 20 or fewer responses are not reported.


Publically Funded Early Education Programs (Head Start and ECEAP) 

  •  The estimated number of children without access to Head Starts and ECEAP is based on the number of low income children ages 3 and 4 (for Head start and ECEAP) and the number of low income children from birth to 2 years of age for Early Head Start 
  • Eligibility Criteria
    • ECEAP accepts families at or below 110% of the federal poverty guidlines (for a family of 4 in 2011, $24,585; in 2012, $29,985), with priority given to those at or below 100% of federal poverty guidelines (for a family of 4 in 2011, $22,350; in 2012, $23,050). A maximum 35% can be in between 100% and 130% of federal poverty guidelines. 
    • Up to 10% of ECEAP and Head Start children can come from families with income above the usual limits. They may qualify based on specific developmental or environmental factors. 

Statistical Significance: Unless otherwise noted, any difference mentioned in the text is statistically significant (unlikely to have occurred by chance).

Quotes:  Communities Count interviewed 32 King County families across a broad range of racial, cultural, and socioeconomic diversity. We reached out to communities of color, recent immigrants, and residents with limited English proficiency. We interviewed both families with very low household income and those who earned up to median income (about $68,000 for a family of four in 2010). Family structures include single-parent households, couples living in consensual unions, married couples, and extended families. We also interviewed social service providers from agencies such as Crisis Clinic, Hopelink, Multi Service Center, and Child Care Resources, as well as staff from community colleges that offer worker retraining or similar programs to help King County residents find jobs. We use fictional names to ensure confidentiality. 


Data Sources

Academic Achievement 

  •  Data on the percent of 4th graders who met state standards came from the Measurements of Student Progress (MSP), Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. 
  • Data on the percent of 10th graders who met state standards came from the High School Proficiency Exam (HSPE). 
  • For both, see 

Eligible children served by Head Start, ECEAP, and Early Head Start: Puget Sound Educational Service District (

English Language Learners as Percent of Total Enrollment: Randy I. Dorn. Educating English Language Learners in Washington State 2011-2012. Report to the Legislature (December, 2012). Appendix D.

Graduation Rates by District: from Graduation and Dropout Statistics by County and School District, Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. See web site at

5 year adjusted cohort graduation rates for selected groups comes from Randy I. Dorn. Graduation and Dropout Statistics Annual Report, 2011-2012 (March 2013) .